Express cook buttons
Variety of cook functions
Smaller than average
Some limits to one-touch cooking
Concerns about longevity
Microwaves are an essential appliance in most households, as they provide a quick and easy way to heat up food and cook things like popcorn and potatoes. If your house or apartment didn’t come with a built-in model, you’ll probably find yourself hunting for a countertop microwave, such as the Hamilton Beach Stainless Steel Microwave Oven.
This microwave looks like your average appliance, with its stainless steel finish and variety of preset cooking buttons, but its super-low price may give you pause—that’s how we felt, too. After all, many microwaves cost hundreds of dollars, so why is this one so affordable? To see if there were any major red flags about this appliance’s performance, we tested it out over the course of a month, putting it through its paces to see if it truly is the deal of the century.
Setup: Simply unbox and start cooking
Most microwaves don’t have too many pieces, so it was no surprise that setting up the Hamilton Beach Microwave Oven was simple. Once we removed the appliance from its packaging, all that was left to do was unwrap the glass turntable and put it in place along with the turntable ring. From there, we simply plugged in the microwave, and it was ready to start cooking!
The only other step in the setup process was setting the appliance’s clock. We were pleasantly surprised to find that it offers both a 12- and 24-hour clock option, which is handy for anyone who prefers using “military time.” Because every appliance in the world seems to have a different sequence for setting its clock, we consulted with the manual for specific instructions, and the whole task took us a grand total of 30 seconds to complete. With that, the setup was complete.
Design: Classy and compact
The Hamilton Beach Microwave Oven is by no means the most spacious appliance you’ll ever own. We were able to slide its 11-inch tall form under our kitchen’s upper cabinets with several inches of clearance to spare, and its overall footprint is roughly 19 x 14 inches, so we think it’s safe to say the appliance will comfortably fit on most countertops.
The interior has a 0.9 cubic foot capacity, which is fairly small, but we could still fit a full-size dinner plate or our Salbree Popcorn Maker on its 10.5-inch turntable. We saw a claim that the turntable wouldn’t spin if you put heavy objects on it, so to do our due diligence, we stacked up several heavy plates and put them in the appliance. Even with a heavy load, the turntable still rotated with no issues. Overall, despite being a smaller model, the Hamilton Beach Microwave was able to handle every dish we tried to put in it.
In terms of aesthetics, the microwave is quite sleek, with stainless steel trim and a large LED display screen. It has a pull-handle to open the door, which we found required minimal effort to operate, and the touch-pad has clearly labeled buttons that are extremely responsive—no button mashing necessary. There’s even a plastic guard on the back of the appliance that will prevent the cord from being bent if you push it back against the wall. If you're someone who regularly ruins power cords this way as we have, you'll find this feature to be really cool!
Our only real qualm with the microwave’s design is that the control buttons seem like they might wear down over time (especially frequently used ones like “Start”) but most people probably aren’t expecting a microwave of this price to last a lifetime.
Performance: On par with high-end models
In our apartment, we have a Frigidaire Over-the-Range Microwave that costs roughly five times as much as the Hamilton Beach Microwave Oven, and we were surprised to find the less-expensive option performed just as well as the high-end Frigidaire. As someone who cooks big batches of food a few times a week, I heat up meals on practically a daily basis, so I used the Hamilton Beach Microwave to warm up a variety of dishes, from clam chowder to spare pork chops. Every time, it heated the food in the same amount of time it would have taken the Frigidaire, proving to be just as powerful with its 900 watts. Occasionally, we found that food would be a bit colder in the middle, but that’s fairly common with microwave-heated dishes and nothing a quick stir and 30 more seconds of cook time can’t fix.
One feature that we particularly liked was the microwave’s “Express Cook” buttons. Most microwaves allow you to press 1, 2, or 3 to automatically start the appliance for 1, 2, or 3 minutes, respectively, but this model takes it even further, adding options that quickly start 4-, 5-, and 6-minute cook times. If you use Express Cook all the time, you'll particularly appreciate this expanded set of features. The Start button also serves as a “Quick 30” button, allowing you to start a 30-second cook time or add 30 seconds to a timer that’s already started. Finally, we got plenty of use out of the Kitchen Timer, which allows you to set a timer without actually starting the appliance—ideal if you’re cooking something in the oven.
If you use Express Cook all the time, you'll particularly appreciate this model's expanded set of features.
When the microwave finishes its job, the signal is actually quite mellow compared to other microwaves we’ve used. The tone is a gentle beep, which we prefer to a fog horn-like siren, but if there’s a lot of ambient noise in the room, you might have trouble hearing it. However, the microwave does give a second “reminder tone” if you don’t remove your food after a minute or so.
Features: Plenty of one-touch cooking options
Just by looking at the control panel on the Hamilton Beach Microwave Oven, you can see that it offers quite a few one-touch cooking options. The preset buttons include:
- Baked Potato
- Frozen Dinner
We tested out several of these settings, and overall, they performed really well. We think the Beverage button is particularly useful, as it allows you to choose between 4-, 8-, 12-, and 16-ounce options. We used it to warm up water for tea, and it brought the 12 ounces of liquid to just under 200 degrees Fahrenheit—just shy of boiling.
Another setting we tested was the Baked Potato button. After poking a fork into a potato several times, we pressed the button, which allows you to select between one and four potatoes. When we chose one, the microwave started a 6-minute cook timer. The final result was a yummy baked potato—it was a touch overcooked on the bottom, but the potato we used was also on the smaller side.
The only one-touch cooking option we didn’t have good luck with was the Popcorn setting. Unlike many other microwaves, the Hamilton Beach model only offers the option to cook 3.5-ounce bags of popcorn. We were trying to cook one of the personal-size bags (they’re usually around 1-ounce each), and the 2+ minute timer that the microwave set was way too long. Luckily, we were monitoring the bag in the kitchen, so we were able to stop it before the popcorn got too burnt.
The Hamilton Beach Microwave also has buttons for both Time and Weight Defrosting, as well as Power Level. We tend not to defrost food in the microwave, as we find it’s impossible to do without cooking the edges, but it is useful that this appliance gives you the option to defrost by time or weight (we're guessing most people don’t know the weight of their frozen chicken breast). We did appreciate the option to alter the power level, though. We regularly melt chocolate in the microwave while baking, and putting the microwave on 50 percent power is a useful way to minimize its chances of burning.
Finally, there’s a Child Lock feature that allows you to render the touchpad inactive, keeping kids from messing with the buttons.
Price: Truly unbeatable
Given the Hamilton Beach Stainless Steel Microwave Oven’s reliable performance and host of useful settings, we’re really impressed that this countertop model only costs around $65. Maybe it’s not the most spacious microwave out there, but we never had any issues fitting a dish or plate inside it. Plus, it offers a variety of cook settings that work really well, especially given its low price.
Competition: Good luck finding a better value
Panasonic Countertop/Built-In Microwave Review: This Panasonic Countertop/Built-In Microwave performed extremely well in our tests, heating food evenly and quietly, and it offers several features that the Hamilton Beach model doesn’t, including a “Keep Warm” setting and sensors that automatically adjust cook time. Additionally, it has a push-button that opens the door, saving you the hassle of yanking on a handle. However, its extra functionality comes at an additional cost, to the tune of around $200.
Frigidaire Over the Range Microwave: The Frigidaire Over-the-Range Microwave is the model we currently use, and while it’s a little more spacious than the Hamilton Beach model, it’s significantly more expensive. It offers roughly the same level of power and most of the same one-touch cooking options, and overall, we think their performance is surprisingly similar, despite the large price difference.
Compact, convenient, and cost-efficient
We were truly expecting to find flaws in the performance of the Hamilton Beach Stainless Steel Microwave Oven, but this small countertop model really impressed us—an unbeatable value for a compact microwave.
- Product Name Stainless Steel Countertop Microwave Oven
- Product Brand Hamilton Beach
- MPN P90D23AL-WRB
- Product Dimensions 17.09 x 14.25 x 22.2 in.
- Power 900 W
- Capacity 0.9 cubic feet
- Material Stainless steel
- Warranty 1 year